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Case Study for Participants

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Read-only participants: A Case for Student Communication in Online Classes

A Case for Student Communication in Online Classes
Grand Canyon University: UNIV 501
9 July 2011

A Case for Student Communication in Online Classes This article explains the importance of participation, interaction, and communication in the virtual classroom between the students and instructors. Many students today are enrolling in online classes to continue their education. Inside the online classroom, students began to meet and greet through discussion forums. Once a relationship and trust has been established between the students and instructors, an online community has been formed within that classroom. Students and their instructors will learn, communicate, and interact with one another throughout the course. Initially, everyone starts out participating in the online discussion forums, but then the true slackers make their appearance apparent in the online classroom. Some students log into the classroom, but show little or no involvement in the classroom or lack input in the discussion forums. This eventually creates a big problem in the online classroom. Due to the lack of log ins, participation, and interaction dismantles the classroom as a whole. A research study was done to show how the students who participated very little could cause disorder in the online classroom community and risk online learning.
Background
Many education programs have become recognizable and more accessible online. People all over the world are taking advantage of online courses because their educational advancement is at the tip of their fingers. However, inside the virtual classroom, the lack of value and participation continue to be a problem: While online course enrolments continue to climb, retention and success rates in such courses and programs are frequently reported as typically lower than those delivered in a traditional classroom format; those of us in roles that support online students have a role in reversing that trend! (Schreck, 2006)

Online dropout rate surpass the dropout rate for those enrolled in a physical class. Studies have demonstrated that online participation is essential to guarantee rewarding online course experience (Klemm, 1998; Rovai &Barnum, 2003; Swan, Shea, Fredericksen, Pickett, & Pelz, 2000).
The Case for read-only participation Students who do not participate in the online course observe other students participation to discussions and learn from them. Beaudoin (2002) found that invisible students sometimes “spend a significant amount of time in learning-related tasks, including logging on, even when not visibly participating, and they feel they are still learning and benefiting from this low-profile approach to their online studies” (p.147). In the virtual community, we can all learn from one another in any shape, form, or fashion; however, how can one learn from someone who does not make their appearance visibly known? We cannot learn from someone who is not visible or active in the online classroom.
Facilitator participation
Whenever the instructor is more active in the virtual classroom, this prompts the student eagerness to learn. Students interact more when the instructors provide feedback to discussions and explanations to theories and concepts. Instructors interactions with their online class play a vital role in a student’s success in the online course
Context of the study Nagel, Blignaut, and Cronje offered an 8 week elective course online to post graduate students that aged from 30 to 50 years. They used WebCT as the learning management system. During the first half of the course, students participated in discussion forums, contributing to the instructor’s assignments and responding to their peers’ posts. In the second half of the course, students had to participate in group assignments. And the final was concluded with an essay. The students’ experiences were observed and a research study was conducted. The students online posts, online quizzes, and tests were analyzed using ATLAS software (Nagel, Blignaut & Cronje, 2007).
Discussion
Student performances and visibility was tracked and recorded inside the virtual classroom. In order for Nagel to improve the completion rates, they had to identify the unproductive students. They used the learning managing system to determine how many times students open pages, participated in discussion forums, and other online material. This distinguished the successful students from the unsuccessful students. Unsuccessful students saw only about half the online material in the course (Nagel, Blignaut & Cronje, 2007). Successful students tended to participate more in discussion posts and they contributed more than the unsuccessful students. Group assignments seemed challenging and difficult to accomplish when successful students were paired up with unsuccessful students. Unsuccessful students contributed the bare minimal during group assignments. Successful students felt the most responsible for the group assignments.

Virtual community
There are several things that contribute to one’s success in their course. Inside the virtual community, voluntary participation, an integrated community, and facilitator support assist in one’s performance and success in the classroom. Students who excel in the classroom participates go the extra mile and participate in surveys or forums voluntarily. Those who are slackers in the virtual classroom tend not to participate in surveys voluntarily. Being part of an integrated community inside the online classroom is very important. This is where the support and assistance comes in from other students. If for some reason a student is lacking behind in the discussion forum or assignment, then someone in the integrated community will make that student aware of it and possibly offer their help. It’s very important for the student and instructor to communicate throughout the course. Typically, the instructors will interact with their students in the discussion forum and via e-mail. Sometimes it’s rare for an instructor to call, but I know it does happen. Students who are more engaged in the online class respond back to the instructors email, messages and discussion posts; those who do not contribute usually do not respond.
Conclusion
A students desire to succeed in the online classroom depended on their dedication to log into their courses, participate in the discussion forums, and their interaction with their peers and instructor. Those who contributed to their online class successfully completed the course. Students that participated at the bare minimum and the students that did not participate at all were not successful in completion of the course. In order to become a successful student in an online course, it’s essential that one go above and beyond the requirements for the course. That includes participating in all assignments and interacting with other students and the instructor.

References
Beaudoin, M.F (2002) Learning or lurking? Tracking the “invisible” online student. Internet and Higher Education, 5, 147-155
Nagel, L., Blignaut, A.S., Cronje, J.C. (2007). Read-only participants: a case for student communication in online classes. Interactive Learning Environment, Vol17, 37-51.
Schreck, V. (2006). It takes a virtual village: Practical strategies for improving online learning retention rates. Retrieved January 6, 2007, from www.innovativeeducators.org/product_p /38.htm.

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